Panther tennis claims district title

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By LANCE CATCHINGS

The Liberty Hill fall tennis team has been on an unprecedented roll this season, most recently beating Burnet on Tuesday to clinch the district championship with a 12-1 district record, which is quite the turnaround after struggling in most of their district matches last season.

On Sept. 24, the Panthers traveled to take on regional opponent Caldwell and came home with a 10-1 (19-2 overall) victory. Next, the Panthers won back-to-back road matches over the following weekend. On Friday, the varsity team defeated Marble Falls, and on Saturday, they took down Gatesville.

Head Coach Philip Dodd said over the past few weeks, the team has been forced to miss matches due to weather, but he was happy they got to play Caldwell and their weekend matches.

“The match was moved with rain looming all week from Tuesday to Monday, so we would ensure getting it in this week after losing four other matches due to rain,” Dodd said. “The girls dropped a total of three games the entire match as they continue to dominate their opponents. We were ahead 6-1 after doubles play for the first time in a while. My freshman duo of Colin Garner and Dalton Nicholas still struggle to play doubles on this level, but they are improving little by little. They dropped the only boys’ doubles match of the day, but rebounded and won their singles matches.”

From here on out, the team’s focus will be on doubles play as they prepare for the final stretch of the schedule and the postseason. Many of the team members were excited about the teams 12th place state ranking, but still want to push to be ranked higher.

“Doubles play will be our focus the next few weeks,” Dodd said. “Rankings are earned, so the kids are proud and want to move up. We have no challenge other than having to play for the state championship in the third round against number-one ranked Fredericksburg. They will see what it takes to be a state championship team. The teams we will face in the playoffs are playoff teams, but not necessarily strong teams.”

The landscape of high school tennis is constantly changing as teams move up and down classifications with realignment. Dodd is pushing for his program to be top tier as they enter the final stretch of the season before playoffs start.

“There are a few levels when it comes to team tennis,” he said. “You have the top few teams in state in each classification, then the next 10-20 teams and then everyone else. We are in the second to top level right now, but moving up is the goal. Last week was a good week for us. We finally got a full match week in after two weeks of cancelling matches due to weather. We lost a step, but after last week, the kids are playing good tennis again. Hopefully, we will be able to get the rest of our matches in before the playoffs start October 15.”

Senior Henry Madison, who picked up wins in boys’ doubles and boys’ singles against Caldwell, said in his four years of LHHS tennis, this is the best team he has been a part of.

“The whole team is playing great together,” Madison said. “I think the practices and work we put on each other every day has grown much more of a team bond than the teams we’ve had the past few years. I think that has resulted in wins that we might have lost last year.”

Senior Brooke Briscoe believes the team has found its stride and is improving every time they hit the court.

“The team is getting better as a whole every match we play,” Briscoe said. “Everybody is getting confident in their game and with each other overall.”

The Panthers’ next matchup will be against Georgetown on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

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